The impact of the eruption of Vesuvius has reached far beyond the historical moment of 79 CE and the geographical location of the Bay ofNaples: in the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, later periods and cultures have found an event in which multiple issues play out, from humankind’s relationship with the environment to the fragility of our relationship with the past. Consequently, as layers of pumice and pyroclastic deposits have been stripped away by excavators and archaeologists, different layers have accreted in their place, as writers and artists, tourists and thinkers have visited the site (whether in person or in their imagination), and added their own stories, recreations, and interpretations to the ruins. This talk will provide an overview of significant motifs in modern receptions of Pompeii – the motif of time travel; analogies between Pompeii and the psyche; the domestic nature of the site; apocalypse and ruin –before exploring two case studies in greater depth. First, the depiction of the destruction in a frieze created for the Neues Museum in Berlin in 1841 signals Pompeii’s centrality to northern European notions of cultural superiority, while the frieze’s later history –badly damaged in World War Two before undergoing a 21st-century partial restoration – mirrors the ancient story of loss and fragmentation in fascinating ways. Second, the use of Pompeii’s amphitheatre as setting for the1972 concert film Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii offers a contrasting insight into the ongoing resonance – both literally and figuratively – of this most evocative of ancient sites.
Joanna Paul, is a Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University. Paul’s work looks at the influence of ancient Pompeii andHerculaneum in contemporary art, film, music and culture today. She is particularly interested in the influence of the classical past within contemporary popular culture, especially cinema. She published ‘Pompeii in thePublic Imagination from its Rediscovery to Today’ with Dr Shelley Hales, investigating the impact of Pompeii in art and culture in modern history.